“Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.” This cautionary advice in a car’s side-view mirror ensures that there is no error in judgment while driving. If you drive the Indian education policy road, you will understand that “policies on paper are farther from ground realities”. Education policies that should have galvanised the country into action have been refrigerated in cold storage—the colder they get, the deeper is the education crisis. More pronounced in higher education. Result: India continues to be plagued with systemic deficiencies that strangulate its education ecosystem instead of oxygenating it.
“If you are planning for a year, sow a seed; if it is for 10 years, plant a tree, and for 100 years, teach the people.” This Confucian ideology believed that an enlightened human society forms the fundamental bedrock for a nation’s development. The Confucian vs Confusing gap is clearly visible from the Chinese march over India due to its strategic and calibrated growth of education at all levels. Result: PISA scores place China way ahead of India in the school education. Repeatedly, ASER studies expose the falling standards of Indian school education, which is more enrolment and less enlightenment-driven. The higher education scene is equally deplorable with it being McDonaldised—IITs and IIMs opening up at a rate faster than McDonald’s franchises and other higher
education institutions churning out students with a certificate to exit campus and not to enter career. Less talked about is the deplorable state of other non-professional higher educational institutions. The status of skills education is counter-directional. The current engineering:diploma institutions ratio is 1.5:1 as against a desired 1:3. This is disproportionate considering the availability of job opportunities for skilled workforce than for professional graduates.
All forms of education lack the visionary perspective to build a long-term sustainable road map for Indian education. Nani Palkhivala succinctly summed this state of Indian policymaking when he said: “We try to solve century-old problems with five-year plans, three-year officials and one-year budgets, and still hope that the problems will be solved as we are all Indians.” How long can we continue to rest on the greatness of our past when the entire world awaits India’s announcement for its future demographic assets that has the propensity to not only solve India’s problems but also the world’s?
It is high time that the much-needed policy-oxygenation revives the entire Indian education system to move from the current mindless massification of school and higher education that is excessively driven by expansion and inclusivity with scant regard to quality. A positively disruptive long-term model is necessary to break the regimental shackles at all levels—from KG to PhD—and encourage an outcome-based approach instead of the existing outlay-based ones. Year after year, policymakers in many of their chest-beating annual rituals provide increased allocation of financial resources for education. Still, UNESCO puts India among the lowest per-capita education spenders. An outcome-based approach is doable and China has demonstrated through its state-sponsored yet forward moving educational policies. India, not through state-sponsored but through a multi-dimensional integrated framework, needs to build a coherent synergy among all education stakeholders—both at the Centre and state levels.
Photogenic policymaking will only appear as headlines in the media to give way for the next day’s. The refrigerated Indian educational policy material that has undergone a cryogenic study needs a pyrogenic push that can heat it up to convert headlines to history. To create global history, Indian education needs a plan for the next 50 years, not just five years. email@example.com
The writer is Dean, Planning & Development, SASTRA University